Banning Adult Contents, Tumblr's Tough Decision Makes Many Users Unhappy

Adult contents can be found all over the web. But increasingly, online services are restricting those NSFW contents by either banning them, or making them private.

To many people on the web, Tumblr was one of the very few services that still allowed them to post NSFW contents. But things are changing as the microblogging and social networking website founded by David Karp in 2007, also wants to ban adult-related contents.

Starting December 17th, the company wants to eradicate all porn-related communities on the platform, by fundamentally altering how the service is used.

The ban includes those with explicit sexual content and nudity with a few exceptions.

The updated policy’s announcement comes just days after Tumblr was removed from Apple’s iOS App Store over a child pornography incident. But the initiative extends far beyond that matter, as "Adult content will no longer be allowed here," said Tumblr on its blog post.

"Regardless of how old you are."

Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media showing sex acts, as well as illustrations.

The exceptions include nude classical statues, illustrations, arts, and political protests that feature nudity. They are still allowed, as long sex acts aren’t depicted.

Text like erotica also remains permitted, and so do breastfeeding and after-birth photos, as well as health-related situations, such as post-mastectomy or gender confirmation surgery.

To notify users, Tumblr is emailing those who have previously posted adult-related contents to the platform, and flagged by its algorithms. On its email, Tumblr is also notifying them that their contents, starting December 17th, will be hidden from view.

Future posts that are adult-related, will be set to private automatically, preventing them from spreading elsewhere in Tumblr or the internet.

"Blogs that have been either self-flagged or flagged by us as 'explicit' per our old policy and before December 17, 2018 will still be overlaid with a content filter when viewing these blogs directly. While some of the content on these blogs may now be in violation of our policies and will be actioned accordingly, the blog owners may choose to post content that is within our policies in the future, so we’d like to provide that option. Users under 18 will still not be allowed to click through to see the content of these blogs. The avatars and headers for these blogs will also be reverted to the default settings. Additionally, posts from these blogs are kept out of search results."
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Those users can still appeal with Tumblr's decision, if in cases that its algorithms made mistakes.

Tumblr admits that there are chances that its automated tools could make errors. What's more, it's also a process for the algorithms to work on all of the contents, so it should take a while.

Tumblr has had a humble beginning. But since then, many have turned to the platform for sharing adult contents. The company has tried to keep those NFSW materials off from public view using a more restricted search filters and through its Safe Mode, but still, things don't look good for the platform.

Since Tumblr is under the ownership of Verizon’s Oath unit, acquiring it with the Yahoo! purchase, it began to consider removing content more aggressively.

"We’ve given serious thought to who we want to be to our community moving forward," said CEO Jeff D’Onofrio. "We’ve realized that in order to continue to fulfill our promise and place in culture, especially as it evolves, we must change."

There are pros and cons to this decision, and the cons include many unhappy users.

The site has a large number of users who make and share erotic works. On the platform, those users were given a safer or more palatable forms of erotica that are rarely served elsewhere. According to some women interviewed, Tumblr was also said to be the source of GIFs that removed distateful elements from "mainstream" pornography.

But according to D’Onofrio, making Tumblr more SFW is a must, because the platform had turned into a place where revenge porn, hate speech, and posts about school shootings happen. But D’Onofrio decided to not remove explicit accounts because it wanted to give them a chance to post appropriate content instead.

But if users dislike this updated policy, they can still export their contents before the change happens in order to save what they have. D’Onofrio even offered them some other solutions:

"There are no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content. We will leave it to them and focus our efforts on creating the most welcoming environment possible for our community,” he said.

Further reading: Tumblr Escalates Its Fight Against NSFW By Banning Even Seemingly Harmless Tags